Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Winter Carnival

All last winter Justin kept telling me about a winter carnival in McCall, Idaho complete with ice and snow sculptures.  It sounded interesting, but more cold than interesting.  The idea of driving two hours in icy and snowy conditions just to tromp around for hours in subfreezing temperatures, through piles of snow to stare at a few sculptures that could just as easily be viewed online just wasn't that appealing.  I secretly hoped that this topic would not be revisited again this year.  No such luck, Justin started talking about it again in October, and eventually had his whole family hyped up for the event, along with our next door neighbor Judy.  So the only thing to do at that point is start planning out the proper winter equipment to make the expedition tolerable.  Fortunately, I can still squish myself into my winter coat, the weather up there became unexpectedly warm, and therefore the road conditions up were mostly clear.  Had it been a different year I might be on here whining about my husband dragging me up there and making me suffer, but it really wasn't too bad.  I wouldn't describe it as warm, I mean the entire lake up there was completely frozen over, but I found the conditions to be tolerable with the assistance of toe and hand warmers.  The sculptures were actually very interesting, and I've truthfully never seen anything quite like it in person.
Justin preparing to enter the Sphinx.

One of the mummies inside the Sphinx.

Interior walls

The Goodale family.  Judy declined to be featured in this photo.

Brooke and the brothers standing in the middle of the frozen lake.

...and then the inevitable snowball fight with the brothers.

For some reason men seem immune to the cold.  My husband returned to me about 45 minutes later with snow down his collar, a clump still sitting inside his frozen ear, and a huge grin on his face like it was the most fun he'd had in months.  I was tired and cold and ready to go, but glad we made the trip.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Breaking up with my couch

I haven't updated this in several months, ever since our trip ended.  Our lives have been pretty boring since the trip, primarily because we found out about a week before the trip ended that we will be expecting a little addition to the family.  The due date is July 21st.  Unfortunately by the time we arrived back in Boise the morning sickness had already started.  Why didn't anyone tell me that I would feel like barfing every single time I brush my teeth?!  WHY?!  It's the part I hate the most. 

Coming home from a 3 week road trip sick, isn't exactly how I had envisioned things.  I think ideally one would like to have a clean house and freezer meals in place before months of illness descend on them.  Fortunately it's just the two of us, so our lack of preparedness was...ummm, well it all fell to Justin, and he's been great.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, you name it, he's done it.  I was one of the unlucky women who don't get morning sickness in waves, but rather in one large, long tidal wave that is incessant unrelenting nausea.  I've been logging a lot of long, boring hours on my couch trying to hold down the last meal, but here we are in week 15 and I think I have at long last recovered and today I had long stretches (hours long) where I felt totally normal.  NORMAL...well, aside from the fact that I still slept an absurd number of hours last night, and I have developed a sense of smell that could rival a bloodhound.  Although this naturally only applies to repulsive odors.  I think that Justin is equally relieved to see the morning sickness break.  He's already developing a list of future outings, and seems pretty eager about the possibility of me resuming my normal household duties.  We've been super excited all along, but it's even easier to feel excited when I don't feel sick.  We really cannot wait for July.  We're not finding out what I'm having.  Justin would, but I love surprises, so he lets me have my way on this one.

Now if we could just get the weather to warm up.  I'm more than a little bit ready for spring!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

This Can't be Right...

First of all, to address Carrie's question about Branson, I have no photos from Branson, MO.  We didn't actually spend very much time there because we spent most of the day in one of Justin's areas an hour or so away.  However, we did make it back in time to do some outlet shopping, and look around town wishing that there were more people with us.  For some reason that city strikes us as the sort of place you want to go with a crowd, not as a couple.  In part this is because we aren't "show" type people, but we thought that it would be fun if someone forced us out of that mindset and pressured us into doing things that we don't ordinarily do on our own.  I would like to go back at some point.

Carlsbad Caverns turned out to be amazing.  It exceeded all of my rather limited expectations.  Justin and I elected to enter through the natural entrance:
There were all kinds of signs indicating that it would add about two miles of walking and was classified as very strenuous.  Although I still wouldn't classify it as "very strenuous," my knees might.  It was pretty much two hours of straight down switchbacks, like the ones pictured above.  Worth it, but I wouldn't mock anyone who decides not to put their knees and ankles through that, and just elects to take the elevator that will shoot you down 700 feet below the Earth's surface in a matter of minutes.  Right as those people stroll off the elevator they are greeted by one of the features of the cavern that I found most fascinating, a restaurant, souvenir shop, and restrooms complete with flush toilets. 
It wasn't really what I was expecting.  We continued on to the Big Room
There were literally miles of paths that took you through all sorts of different weird cavern features.  We spent hours in there.  All the pictures are on facebook, if you have interest in viewing more...which you should, but I have no interest in taking the time to post more of them here.

From there were drove to Tucson where we spent the night, visited the senior missionary couple that gave Justin and I our first introduction over breakfast at a McDonald's in Sierra Vista on the temple trip where we met.  We continued on from there to San Diego where we spent a couple of days visiting my Cousin Trent and his family, and went to the San Diego Zoo, and Seaworld.  Pictures have not yet been downloaded from this portion of the trip.  We attended the wedding of one of Justin's closest friends and then began the homeward trek through Nevada (where we stopped at Hoover Dam), spent the night in Utah, and finally 21 days, and 15 states later we have returned to our little apartment in Boise.  We are not sorry to have made the trip, but not sorry to be home either. 

We returned the rental car later that evening, and when the lady checking it in got in to log the mileage, she emerged from the car a second later with a rather puzzled look on her face and said "This can't be right, I show that you put 6,905 miles on this car?  That must be wrong..."  I told her it wasn't wrong, and she assumed a look of total astonishment as she inquired where it had been, and looked more shocked as I rattled of a few of the states.  Finally she just shrugged and said okay.  Probably not the number she's used to seeing, but they said unlimited mileage...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where are we?

This whole business of trying to blog as we travel pretty much got kicked to the way side a while back.  I ended up falling behind, which is a shame because we have had many interesting adventures.  We've gone from Branson, MO, to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Dallas, and now we find ourselves in the rather trashy town of Roswell, NM.

Along the way we've met many wonderful people from Justin's mission and we have seen some interesting things here and there as well.  We stopped in El Dorado Springs where I drank some magic waters that will allegedly cure all my ailments, but truthfully it tasted gross, so I'm pretty much convinced that it was bad for me.  
We also visited the town of Marionville, MO because we learned that the park there is home to one of only a very few groups of albino squirrels in the world:
We were able to spot three of them.  We also visited the Wal-Mart museum, in Bentonville, AR, where it all began:
Oh, and visited the first Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, MO:
When we got to Texas to visit Devon and his family I got to sit on a Texas Longhorn.  I had a moment just as a swung my leg over it's back that if this thing turned out to be not quite as docile as it seemed that this could be it for me, but when I mentioned this to Devon he pointed out that I might possibly have ended up on one of those "when animals snap" videos.  Alas, it was not to be, and I continue to live a life of relative anonymity.
This morning we said goodbye to Devon and Annette, and continued on in the wrong direction for some time before we got ourselves straightened out and were able to make the most uninteresting drive ever across the state of Texas on a two-lane highway that Justin deemed to be the best route.  If by "best" he met "ugly and boring" he definitely found it.  We did pullover briefly for me to grab a little wad of cotton from the side of the road.  I had to hurl it out the window though when after making a close inspection of the item it occurred to me that cotton might have a boll weevil in it.  Pretty irrational considering I'd already been sitting there inspecting my find and tugging it off the seed for several minutes, but the mere idea grossed me out so much that I was forced to rid myself of the item immediately.

We have now arrived in Roswell, NM just in time to visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center:
The lady at the front desk told us that some people spend all day exploring the museum.  Justin and I found 30 minutes to be pretty adequate.  Tomorrow we visit Carlsbad Caverns!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Out of the Woods

Justin and I continued on from South Dakota to Omaha where we spent only one night.  Next we visited a small little town of about 1,800 called Stockton, out in kind of the middle of nowhere Missouri.  On our way there we had the chance to stop and tour some of the church history sites.  We stopped at Winter Quarters (Omaha, Nebraska), the Kanesville Tabernacle (Council Bluffs, Iowa), Liberty Jail (Liberty, Missouri), and last was my favorite, Independence, Missouri.  I loved all of them, but Independence was my favorite.  After that we got in the car and drove down the freeway for a little while, but then got off and drove on a windy, hilly country road for miles, and miles, and there was nothing anywhere but trees and more road...or so I thought until we passed a wagon full of Amish people.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one and about the third time I said to Justin "there was just a wagon full of people back there, in the middle of the road" he started laughing at me.  It was just so far from anything that I found it to be shocking.  Still we kept driving and finally turned on a series of dirt roads, and found ourselves at the home of some members Justin knew while serving there.

The fascinating thing about this little city, is that there are hundreds of polygamists living out in the surrounding woods, and the people we stayed with had originally been raised in a polygamist group, but rejected it.  Naturally, it is still a big part of their lives, since family still practices, hence their living out there, but they eventually were found by the missionaries, taught and joined the church.  They are amazing people, and have done really great work in getting missionary work started in that community.  We had a chance to meet with a couple of other families out there that have since joined, and it really is just very inspiring to see those people slowly opening their doors to the gospel.  I find myself with a particular interest in this due to the fact that my maiden name is Black, and my Grandpa's cousins and their posterity are still part of the polygamist group in Southern Utah.  These people in Stockton originally came from Southern Utah and knew some of his cousins, and some of them were even able to tell me of a few Blacks that have found their way back to the gospel.  I know how much this would have meant, and I'm sure does mean, to my Grandpa Black.  The whole experience out there was amazing, and we were so sorry to leave today.

Also, of note, yesterday we got a chance to leave Stockton for a bit and drive to St. Robert, MO, right outside of Ft. Leanord Wood to meet with one of Justin's converts.  It's been great to see him get a chance to see his areas again, and visit these people who mean so much to him.

Tonight we find ourselves in Branson, Missouri.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Buffalo Burgers, and a Corn Palace

The internet at our hotel yesterday crashed, so I was unable to compose anything yesterday evening.  However, we left our hotel early in the morning and first went to a place called Bear Country USA that is something like a drive thru zoo.  Justin and I share a fascination with animals, and so we were unable to pass up an opportunity to get an up close look at wolves, bears, cougars, etc.  Although as it turned out our favorite part was at the very end where you exit your car to walk through "baby land."  They had four little bear cubs there that were fluffy and adorable, and watching them play with each other made you forget for a moment or two that they're going to grow up to be horrible and mean.  See how fluffy they are:

After that we went to Mount Rushmore, and to my excitement discovered that because this is the off-season for tourists, their were only a few of us wandering around.  However, we also discovered after only a few minutes there why nobody else wants to visit this time of year.  It was FREEZING cold.  The good news is that it got cold enough that Justin finally caved and agreed to let me buy him a coat.  Too bad for him that had to wait until the end of the day.

We spent the whole rest of the day driving around through the Black Hills to various scenic overlooks.  One overlook spot we'd planned on seeing had a closed road, so we decided to walk a few miles in and check it out.  We encountered a group of very lazy government workers who were supposedly working to eradicate bark beetles, but appeared to us to be out loafing around on the trail hoping that the bark beetles would just disappear on their own.  We were a little hesitant to launch off the trail in front of them at first, but they didn't look motivated enough to care, or do anything about it even if they did so we cut through the forest to the top of the mountain.  Here I am in the Black Hills:
We crammed as much stuff into the day as we could, but when it started to get dark we were still on our way to a scenice byway Justin wanted to take.  It was almost completely dark before he finally concluded that it wasn't going to happen and we started back to town to first buy him a coat, and second find a place where we could try a buffalo burger.

Initially the coat seemed like the more daunting task, but it's South Dakota, so there was a huge selection of coats at the Kohls here and we were in and out pretty fast.  Food became an issue.  For some reason we could not find a restaurant that even looked kind of promising.  After driving around for an hour or so, with me getting progressively more and more cranky the more hungry I got Justin finally caved and called his mom to do an internet search and locate us a restaurant that serves buffalo burgers.  Our burgers were delicious, but impossible to eat.  Justin's was probably the size of his head, and although I'm confident my husband is man enough to have crammed it all down in one sitting, and for a while I thought he might do it, but turns out he's also smart enough to finish before his meal becomes his nemesis.  Our big regret from day two was that we didn't have enough time to do and see everything we wanted to in South Dakota.

This morning we got up early, and had to wrestle the massive amount of luggage we had with us back out to the car.  For some reason things that fit in the car before we left now have to be wedged back in with a great deal of precision, or it's a total no go.  It's like the car shrunk over night.  After fighting with our luggage, and of course checking in one more time to confirm that Justin's wedding ring was never recovered we left Rapid City and made our way east towards Badlands National Park.  The park was really interesting, and I truthfully had never seen anything quite like it, but it was also one of the coldest experiences we've had thus far.  Every time we pulled over and ventured out of the car I immediately had regrets.  The wind is crazy strong, and freezing cold, and after the first two or three overlook spots I felt kind of over it.  Not a lot of diversity in the terrain.  It's like staring at the slides in a viewmaster.  They're super cool the first time you see them, and then they just keep rotating around over and over and over again.  That's the Badlands experience, but still worth the drive through.  The rest of the drive was just a blur of flat places, with little rolling hills, and my husband's ramblings about all the great things that are still to come on this trip.  At long last we were saved by the billboard alongside of the freeway advertising the world's only Corn Palace.  Naturally we had no idea what that was, or why anyone would want to see it, but we knew pretty much right away that we were going to need to make a visit.

Not sorry that we did, it's a building in Mitchell, SD that has the entire exterior decorated in corn and corn husks.  They put up new corn murals around the outside every fall.  You can see in this picture that this years renovation is still in progress:
It was fascinating, but almost just as fascinating was watching Justin get all flustered at the gas station there when we pulled up and gas was not only $2.99/gallon, as opposed to the $3.80 something back home, but they also still let you pump first and then go inside to pay.  It was his first, and sadly probably last experience being treated like a trustworthy person at a gas pump.  I also found his conversation with the lady at the Corn Palace to be quite amusing when she confided in us that she's not a big fan of Mitchell, SD, because it's not as big and interesting as Wichita, KS.  I've never been to Kansas, so perhaps there's more to that state than I've been told, but my guess is that even having a wal-mart inside city limits would make it more interesting than Mitchell.

We finished up our evening stopping in Sioux Falls, SD to see the falls that were sort of anti-climatic.  They're in the middle of an industrial part of town, so not the most picturesque of places, but you're allowed to climb around on them, which kind of made up for it some.  Now we are in Omaha, Nebraska for the evening.  Justin located a back door to the hotel near our room, so that we were able to drag in our massive amount of luggage, including the toaster oven, without having to bring it all through the lobby and endure the judgement of the night desk person.  Tomorrow we're visiting some church history sites and then moving on to our first stop in Justin's mission.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You Packed the Garbage?!

Justin and I are now finishing day one of our three and a half week roadtrip that we've been planning for weeks.  Today was our longest driving day, we went from Boise to Rapid City, SD, cutting through Yellowstone and all of Wyoming.  Our final destination will be California by way of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.   Justin tries to deny that he's been brimming over with excitement about this for weeks, but he is not to be believed.  Last night we finally finished all of our last minute packing, had the rental car loaded, and went to bed around midnight.  Justin set his alarm for 2:40 in the morning, which was originally my idea, but when the alarm went off I laid there feeling semi-despondent, while my husband bounded out of bed like he'd never slept better, and was pretty much completely ready to go by 3:10, just as I was emerging from the bed.  He had hurried and loaded up a bunch of last minute items that had to wait until the morning of to be loaded in the car, and we left a little after 3:30.

I can't say much about the first couple of hours of the trip, because I was sound asleep for the most part.  When I finally woke up I think Justin was so afraid that I'd doze off again and that he was barely taking a breath in between sentences.  As we were approaching Yellowstone, he announced that he had a confession to make, and that he had realized that he forgot to pack his winter coat.  What sort of a person embarks on a roadtrip in November without a coat?  My husband, that's who.  Furthermore he said he was hungry and asked me to find him something to eat.  When I reached into the back seat to get some food I found on top of everything the bag of garbage from out of our kitchen.  He forgot his coat, but somehow managed to pack the kitchen garbage.  I have no idea how this happened.  Neither does he.

So now we have these ridiculous pictures of us together in Yellowstone, me in all my winter gear, my husband in a long-sleeved t-shirt. 

Anyhow, we spent way too long in Yellowstone, had to revise our route a little, and cut out a few things, but had a great time.  When we finally arrived in Rapid City late this evening Justin managed to lose his wedding ring, so that's now the first casualty of our trip.  I expect there will be others along the way.  We also originally thought it was a brilliant idea to pack our underwear, socks, pj's and the like in one bag, and our clothes in another.  It wasn't until we arrived at the hotel that it dawned on us that this arrangement requires us to drag two enormous duffle bags into the hotel, along with a smaller bag for toiletries, a computer bag, a camera bag, and an enormous cooler full of food.  Justin was so embarrassed by the spectacle that we made of ourselves dragging all that stuff through the lobby in an attempt to get it up in one trip that he felt like he had to offer a brief explanation to the front desk person who was looking at us like we were from Mars. The desk person stared even more when I came down a few minutes later to retrieve a few more items from the car, including a toaster oven to cook a baked potato in for dinner.  I'm pretty shameless, Justin...well he's not there yet, but being married to me long enough I'm sure he'll become that way sooner or later.   Tomorrow we explore the Black Hills!